Former sideman of radio icon is ready to rock in a new year
Roman Sawczak enjoyed free-wheeling years as the trusted sidekick of Steve Dahl and Garry Meier.
That duo prospered as Chicago radio rebels who were inducted in November into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
“It was definitely fun,” Sawczak, a 55-year-old Dyer resident, said of his time with Steve and Garry. “I look back on it now as, more than anything, being a really invaluable time of learning. I learned a lot from those two guys.”
Sawczak said it was back in 1979 that he and Dahl formed Teenage Radiation, the band that backed Dahl when the deejay fronted live-music shows that displayed his knack for parody songs.
A guitarist, Sawczak led Teenage Radiation, wrote a little music for it, and became Dahl’s musical director.
The association with Dahl managed to plop Sawczak into performances at major venues such as Chicago’s International Amphitheatre and Soldier Field. Sawczak also got to join Cheap Trick and Joe Walsh in concert.
Sawczak, it should be noted, was a founder of the Dancing Noodles in 1982.
That band, likewise, ended up playing for Dahl, while also recording with him.
The Noodles became a very popular Chicago-area band in the 1980s.
The original lineup of the Dancing Noodles has reformed and will dole out throwback rhythm and blues at a New Year’s Eve performance at the Silver Lake Country Club in Orland Park, Ill.
“It’s ‘60s-based, most of it,” Sawczak said of the material he and his bandmates plan to dispense.
Meier said in a phone interview this month he experienced a “warm fuzzy” moment after learning Sawczak and the Noodles would be back in action New Year’s Eve.
“He’s got that going again, which is good,” said Meier, who now plays host from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays at Chicago’s WGN-AM (720).
More than three decades ago, Dahl and Teenage Radiation released “Ayatollah,” a spoof of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini that was done to the tune of “My Sharona,” a 1979 hit for the Knack.
“It was Roman’s orchestration that pulled the band together,” Meier recalled.
Meier also alluded to the era when Sawczak was producing the Steve & Garry show — an adventure in cutting-edge comedy.
“He worked out well,” Meier noted. “He really got our senses of humor.”
Generating laughs and playing the role of agitators were the strong suits of Steve & Garry.
In July 1979, the Dahl-led “Disco Demolition Night” at Chicago’s Comiskey Park featured the blowing up of disco records on the baseball field in between games of a doubleheader. However, chaos ensued — including the storming of the field by numerous fans — and the second game of the doubleheader was canceled.
On the recording side, Dahl’s parody songs were often dead-on satire, sometimes gaining national prominence.
“The biggest one, of course, was ‘Do You Think I’m Disco?’” said Sawczak, referring to the jab at the disco era that borrowed the melody of “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” — Rod Stewart’s chart-topper from the late 1970s.
Sawczak considered Dahl a “super-smart businessman.”
In turn, Dahl and Meier thought enough of their right-hand man to let him serve for six years as their show’s executive producer — a stint that was carried out at Chicago’s WLUP-FM and WLUP-AM. Sawczak even occasionally served as a fill-in co-host for Steve & Garry’s show.
“Steve was like a big brother; he was like a mentor,” Sawczak, a husband and father of four, assured. “So it was fun, but it was very, very educational.”
Sawczak’s learning journey happened to march along to the roguish style of Dahl, who was fired by WLUP in 1981 for “continued assaults on community standards.”
Dahl and Meier then moved over to Chicago’s WLS-FM for a run of several years. They split up in 1993.
A little flavor of those Dahl-Meier times will be dished by their longtime aide when Roman Sawczak and his Dancing Noodles provide live music at the New Year’s Eve bash in Orland Park.
Sawczak said Munster’s Phil Miller will be a “special guest Noodle” that night.
Miller, 57, isn’t an original member of the Dancing Noodles, but he’s played guitar for them a lot.
Experience has shown Miller that the group’s repertoire and manner are conducive to good times.
“The song choices are great,” said Miller, who’ll show off his rhythm-guitar talents on New Year’s Eve. “They were a party band. You could dance to it. You could sing to it. It’s a fun ensemble. It’s great bringing Roman back out.”
Hits from the Temptations and Four Tops, along with Edwin Starr’s “Twenty-Five Miles,” will be among the offerings from the Dancing Noodles on New Year’s Eve.
Besides Sawczak and Miller, the Noodles’ lineup also is scheduled to feature guitarist Paul Martin of Pontiac, Ill., bassist Brian Sarna of Orland Park, keyboardist Ed Kammerer of Tinley Park, Ill., and drummer Terry Canning of Clarendon Hills, Ill.
Sawczak has branched out from the entertainment realm by handling information/media duties for the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission.